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Preview: Flames vs. Islanders

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are enjoying their best stretch of the season due largely to defense and goaltending.

Facing the worst offensive team in the league doesn't figure to slow them down.

On the third stop of a seven-game trip, the Flames look to extend their season-high four-game win streak Thursday night in a matchup with the sputtering New York Islanders.

With an offense that ranks among the NHL's weakest, Calgary (18-15-4) has relied on defense and goaltending to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race. The Flames have rebounded from four straight losses (0-2-2) with four consecutive wins, the most recent a 2-1 shootout victory at Columbus on Tuesday.

Jarome Iginla scored in regulation and added a goal in the shootout to back a 27-save performance from Miikka Kiprusoff, who returned to the net after a rare game off.

"We got a huge effort from Kiprusoff," forward Blake Comeau said. "He kept us in it the whole way. Jarome scored a big goal in the third. The game wasn't pretty, but when you're in a race like we are, you'll take two points any way you can get `em."

Calgary has allowed only five goals during its four-game winning streak, and none on 11 opponent power-play opportunities. Kiprusoff has a 1.30 goals-against average in three wins during the run, and rookie Leland Irving stopped 29 shots in the other contest - a 3-1 victory at Vancouver on Friday.

Iginla, who is two goals away from 500 for his career, has seven goals and 10 assists in 14 games this month. Olli Jokinen has matched those December totals, and also has four goals and six assists during a seven-game point streak.

This game will be the first for Comeau against his former team. The Islanders (11-17-6) waived him Nov. 24 after five seasons, but the Flames claimed him the next day.

"Obviously when you get put on waivers, it's a humbling experience," Comeau, who has five points in 17 games with Calgary, told his new team's official website. "I feel like there's a little extra motivation for myself when I go back to Long Island. To maybe show some people here that I have a lot to offer."

Comeau's former club is at the bottom of the East and mired in a 2-6-1 slide with both of those wins coming in shootouts on the road.

The Islanders were shut out for a league-high seventh time and lost their third straight, 3-0 to the New York Rangers on Monday.

"Some guys are giving us what they have, but I think other guys have been passengers, for sure," coach Jack Capuano said. "You can't sit around. You have to sacrifice and play with the will to compete."

That will to compete has seemingly been missing most of the season. New York ranks last in the league with 77 goals and has won six home games. Only Montreal has won less in its own building.

Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov will likely make his fourth straight start since returning from a groin injury. He is 1-8-0 with a 2.85 GAA in 11 games since beating the Rangers in his season debut.

The Islanders have won four of five against the Flames, including a 5-2 victory in Calgary on Jan. 3.

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